Newark disputes elevated lead results in downtown building

Eleven80 on Raymond Boulevard is a luxury building in downtown Newark, but whose water testing results should tenants believe: the city of Newark’s or an independent lab’s?

In an email to tenants, building management said it had ordered “independent water testing with a qualified consultant” and late last week the lab reported finding “an elevated level of lead in the water entering the building” — higher than the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion.

The email states, “further testing and evaluation are needed” because “results may vary” depending on a number of factors. But, in the meantime, managements said, “we are asking our residents not to use the water for drinking, cooking, preparing baby formula, or brushing teeth. Please avoid ingesting water when bathing and showering.”

The building has been giving tenants bottled water, but Newark disputes the validity of those results. Newark’s said in a press release that the water department took samples of water entering Eleven80 on Saturday and had one of the four New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection-certified labs analyze the water. According to Newark, the lab determined the sample “has undetectable levels of lead/less than 5 parts per billion of lead,” which the city said are “consistent with a test performed on Jan. 10, 2019.”

Juan Fernandez, who recently moved in to Eleven80, was unaware of the city’s lab results and said he needs more information.

“No, I’m not drinking the tap water. I wasn’t drinking the tap water before,” he said. “I do not have great confidence in tap water in New Jersey, I guess.”

The Wanaque treatment plant serves Eleven80 and Newark’s downtown. The city has consistently said downtown buildings don’t have the elevated lead levels found in older city homes — homes targeted to have their lead service lines replaced within three years.

Newark is giving bottled water to residents on the city’s west side who are served by the Pequannock water treatment facility after filtered water there recently showed elevated lead levels. As of Monday, Newark was awaiting test results of water from some 225 homes in the city to determine whether filters are working properly.

On Friday, a federal judge agreed with Newark and declined to order the city to give bottled water to pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under six served by the Wanaque plant after testimony the city was already giving water to those residents.

Eleven80’s management has not responded to emails and phone calls, and neither the city nor the state DEP have named the consultant Eleven80 hired to test the water.

In the meantime, the mayor’s press release on Sunday stated, “It’s important that any sampling of water for lead testing follow prescribed and verified scientific protocols. The city encourages businesses that are looking to have their water tested to work with NJDEP certified labs to conduct testing to ensure the correct protocols are followed.”

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